Morning Briefing: Business blindfolded, economy sinking - vote on Labour's Brexit - May's promises
The chancellor found himself grappling with a slew of dire economic figures yesterday, knowing full well that continued Brexit uncertainty means worse is likely to follow. The economy only grew by 0.2% in the final quarter of last year - and actually contracted by 0.4% in December. Meanwhile business investment was down a whopping 3.7% on the same quarter last year.
That’s bad news for British jobs. Look no further than the recent decision made by Nissan not to build its new X Trail model in Sunderland, and the fears of workers there, for an example of the real-life consequences of a Brexit downturn.
Now the latest figures are only snapshots from the end of 2018. But anyone following the business news since new year will know things have not improved. What’s more, the chancellor himself fears the economy-sapping impact of Brexit will continue, with Brexit talks and the threat of a calamitous “no deal” crash out expected to go to the “eleventh hour”.
And even if Theresa May somehow managed to scrape her deal with the EU through Parliament, the economy would struggle to pick itself up. That’s because May’s deal will give neither clarity nor closure on Brexit.
All the big concrete decisions about the UK’s future relationship with the EU have been postponed until after we’ve left. Endless political fighting will mean those decisions won’t be made for years to come. Businesses need to know basic facts about the future: what our relationship with our biggest trading partner will be; what our immigration system will look like and who they will be able to hire. Instead they’ll get a blindfold Brexit, and it will be miserable.
Certainly, the chancellor’s claims that securing an agreement with the EU will mean a “deal dividend” now look ridiculous. Getting a withdrawal deal would not mean an economic boost so much as “avoiding something really very bad”, a highly critical report by the Commons Treasury committee says. Indeed, economic analysis by both the government and independent experts shows that even the softest Brexit will leave the UK economy worse off in years to come than it would be if we stayed in the EU.
But there’s a positive flipside to all this bad news: we can boost our economy by staying in the EU. Not only that, but it would remove the distraction of Brexit and allow politicians to focus on fixing the problems that led to Brexit in the first place - an ailing NHS, too few homes, overstretched schools, communities left behind.
The way to do that is with a People’s Vote. It’s still within our power to say no to this endless blindfold Brexit which will leave us all poorer.
Tweet of the Day
Resolution Foundation director Torsten Bell presents the shocking fact that families have already seen their income hit since the referendum according to their latest report. This is why we need a People’s Vote.
Labour proposal should get vote
Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, has called for Labour’s proposal of a customs union with the EU to be put to a vote in the House of Commons. His suggestion, made in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, should be welcomed by all sides as a way to move the Brexit debate forward. Labour’s Brexit offer needs to receive the same scrutiny that led MPs to reject the government’s deal by 230 votes. And it is unlikely to pass, judging by the Conservative reaction to Theresa May’s - Liam Fox called it a “dangerous delusion”, reports The Times.
The majority of MPs will see the defects in Labour’s proposal once it has its day(s) in Parliament. It turns us into a much bigger rule-taker than even May’s deal, with highly optimistic aims of having a say on the EU’s trade and other policies. It wouldn’t do anything to change the controversial “backstop” arrangement. And it would still leave us poorer than we would have been if we’d stayed in the EU. By ruling it out, Labour can finally move on to a proper solution to this Brexit mess - handing the whole thing back to the public with a People’s Vote.
Video of the Day
WATCH: Senior Labour figures have said that if cross-party talks fail, Labour will back a People's Vote. Don't let the Government run the clock down on Brexit. Labour can prevent this by backing a People’s Vote.
Demand one NOW.
The prime minister will today ask MPs for extra time. She’ll say they’ll get another chance to vote on Brexit towards the end of the month in order to persuade them not to take control of the process on Valentine’s Day. But if there’s another “meaningful vote” on her deal by the end of the month and she loses it, what happens next? Will she be able to run down the clock or will MPs then be able to force her to ask the EU to delay Brexit? Only when her exact words have been examined will parliamentarians be able to decide what, if any, amendments are needed on Thursday. Hugo Dixon examines the complex procedure in this piece for InFacts.
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Fox does one deal
A round of applause, please, for Liam Fox. The trade minister has finally signed off the first of his “rollover” trade deals with Switzerland. That’s right, with less than 50 days to go until Brexit, Fox has now managed to copy one of the forty or so trade deals we already had as a member of the EU.
Remember how Fox suggested he’d have all these ready to go by Brexit day on March 29? Well, his department admitted for the first time yesterday that this would not in fact be the case. Meanwhile the big deal - our relationship with the EU bloc - is sketched out only as a vague wishlist in the “Political Declaration” part of the government’s deal. And cutting new deals with other big global economies is only likely to happen after that.
Quote of the Day
"Another day has gone by and another promise on Brexit is casually being broken. This is just the start and things will only get worse. The idea of Liam Fox going into trade negotiations with Donald Trump is like someone taking a teaspoon to a knife fight."
Labour MP Anna McMorrin reacts to news that EU trade deals will not be rolled over before Brexit, and looks to the future.
What's your reason?
Women for a People’s Vote supporter Patricia wants a People’s Vote because “Now we know the full facts of Brexit.”
Please share on Twitter.
Top Brexit comment
Rachel Sylvester: Ministers will act if Theresa May carries on sleepwalking (Times)
Editorial: The UK economy: before Brexit, rescue it from austerity (Guardian)
Today, Tuesday 12th February
|09.30||ONS: international exports of services in 2016|
|11.30||Business questions in Commons|
|PM||Theresa May statement to Commons|
Tomorrow, Wednesday 13th February
|09.30||ONS: consumer price inflation|
|10.30||Former Irish PM Bertie Ahern at Commons Brexit committee|
|12.00||Prime Minister's Questions|